Retinoids. What To Know Before You Start…

The first thing to know is that both Retinol products and a prescribed Retinoic Acid are Retinoids and before using one, learn the differences and be clear about why you want to go down this path to begin with. The more clear you are with your goals and your understanding of the many products available to you, the more successful you will be using them.

Before slathering  any of these on your skin, think about why you want to use a Retinoid. Is it to brighten skin afflicted with hyper-pigmentation, reverse sun damage, improve collagen production or clear your acne? Be specific as certain skin conditions are better suited for specific Retinoid products.

Retinoid refers to Vitamin A and the various molecules derived from Vitamin A, which are referred to as Retinol. Retinol converts to Retinaldehyde and then Retinoic Acid and this is important to note as it is the conversion process that determines the efficacy of your product. The less steps it takes to convert to Retinoic Acid, the more effective. For example, active ingredients in your over the counter products like Retinal Palmitate, Retinal Acetate and Retinal Linoleate are the least effective because they have to still convert to Retinol, adding an extra step in the process. For better results, make sure Retinol is your active ingredient when using an over the counter product.

So Why Is Vitamin A Such A Beautifying Nutrient For The Skin?

Vitamin A is a must have for normal skin cell development as it inhibits collagen breakdown, increases elasticity, improves moisture to the skin, soothes inflammation, regulates oil production and reverses the signs of photo aging.

What’s important to know is that Vitamin A and Vitamin C are best little friends and if you are taking a Retinoid it is suggested that you up your Vitamin C intake for more profound results. This means eating more fresh fruits and citrus juices and taking a Vitamin C supplement or Emergen-C every day. As well, if you are taking a Retinoid to slow down the appearance of aging, eat less refined sugar! This is the number one enemy when it comes to wrinkles. Instead, eat more living foods that support your overall immunity for everlasting results.

Yes Retinoids Will Initially Cause Peeling & Inflammation.

Retinoid Dermatitis is the inflammation that naturally happens when using a Retinoid and is not about exfoliating but about your Retinoid working on a cellular level to influence natural collagen production and increase the potency of depigmenting agents for the treatment of melasma, sun and age spots, and post-inflammatory hypermelanosis (temporary pigmentation that affects those of us with darker brown skin after injury – picking at skin!) or another inflammatory disorder. It is important not to stop using your Retinoid when this happens (as many people do) and instead work through it as this is part of the process.

If peeling / inflammation continues for 2-3 weeks it is important to use less product or try a weaker formula.

Essential Tips For Having A Successful Experience With Your Retinoid:

  • Pregnant? If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant do not use any Retinoid products, whether over the counter or prescribed! Check in with your OBGYN and Dermatologist post-pregancy before beginning treatment
  • Active Ingredient. If using an over the counter product, make sure the active ingredient is Retinol for a more effective result. Retinal Palmitate and the other weaker Retinoids mentioned above are not as effective. As for the active ingredient in your prescribed Retinoic Acid, make sure your dermatologist knows your goals and the active ingredient is the most effective at targeting them.
  • Go Slow. If you are more sensitive definitely try an over the counter product before using a prescribed Retinoid. Also, suss out your new product before jumping in and use at most twice a week and maybe even once a week at first to see how your skin responds.
  • Stronger vs. Weaker. Retinoic Acids are stronger because they are already in that final converted form to work on a cellular level. Refussa and Renova are known to be the gentlest of prescribed products. Tazorac and Tazarotene are the strongest. Base your decision on your specific goals first rather than what is gentler. Tazorac may be more intense but known to be more effective for improving acne scar tissue.
  • Immune Boost. Before using any Retinoid, It is also suggested that you first build your body’s immunity both internally and on the surface. Eating more fresh whole foods, upping  your vitamin C, drinking lots of antioxidant-rich teas and eating less meat and other foods that are extreme on the body’s digestion are a great place to start as well as using gentler products on the surface of the skin that will not strip it of its natural protective barrier. You may want to also wash with cleanser in the evening only and use a hydrosol to cleanse in the morning.  Also, infuse your skin with nutritive products like Elique creams and oils and include nourishing treatments like masking with honey and cleansing with sesame oil.
  • Less is More. Avoid daily essentials with Retinoids in them. You don’t need a day cream, eye cream, cleanser and definitely not an SPF with a Retinoid. Have one specific chosen, well-researched product that you apply in the evening and call it a day.
  • Wait Until Bedtime. It is best to use your Retinoids in the evening as they degrade in light and heat. Also, during rest phase is when your body is best suited for this kind of transformative product. Also, Fall and Winter when sunny days are shorter are the best time to begin using your Retinoids.
  • Be Patient. With consistent application and applying the advice mentioned above, expect results in 12-18 weeks for an over the counter product and approximately 12 weeks with your prescribed Retinoic Acid.
  • Reaching A Plateau. You will reach a plateau with your Retinoid in about a year so let go and let your skin relish for a bit without them and continue boosting your skin’s health topically and internally with your fresh foods and Vitamin C. Check in with your dermatologist after six months (or even longer) if you want to give it another run.

There are many Retinoids on the market so make sure while looking for the most suitable active ingredient you also read the complete list of ingredients as many of them have PEG, Parabens, Phenoxyethanol, Petrolatum etc…. Though I do not use Retinoids at this time, I trust Marie Veronique products as a great place to start.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and more about your experience. Feel free to email me and dish the dirt…

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